L. Benita Mackie, 75, English professor at community college, textbook author


L. Benita Mackie, an English professor who wrote what became a widely circulated book on sentence construction because she found students were poorly prepared, died of lung cancer Jan. 19 at her sister's Pikesville home. The Towson resident was 75.

Born L. Benita Johnson in Pocatello, Idaho, she earned bachelor's and master's degrees in English literature at the University of Utah and a doctorate at Idaho State University.

In 1964, Dr. Mackie joined the faculty of what was then-Catonsville Community College and taught English remedial writing, composition and literature.

According to her family, an outcome of her many years in the classroom was the publication of a successful 1985 combined text and workbook, Building Sentences, which she wrote with Catonsville colleague Shirley Rompf. Published by Prentice Hall, the book went into three editions and remains in print.

"She got into the remedial area because the high schools were graduating students who were practically illiterate," said a son, James B. Mackie of Clifton, Va. "The book was a natural outgrowth of what she was doing in her classes."

In an interview in The Evening Sun in 1984, she said: "The students we get at a community college are so lacking in the basic skills - reading, writing and arithmetic - they need to understand instructions and directions to communicate with an instructor or a supervisor."

"She was an inspiration," Ms. Rompf, of Ellicott City, said yesterday. "She taught me how to teach. She held her students and her colleagues to the highest standards and helped her colleagues grow into the teachers they wanted to be."

Dr. Mackie also was assistant to the dean of instruction, English department chairwoman, secretary of the college senate and chairwoman of the senate's professional affairs committee. She also helped write the school's constitution and worked on a report that helped win reaccredidation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

From the mid-1980s until her retirement about a decade ago, she was an executive dean at Carroll Community College.

A member of the Audubon Society and Nature Conservancy, she enjoyed bird-watching in the Baltimore area and Utah. She also traveled widely.

Plans for a memorial service were incomplete.

She is also survived by another son, Palmer J. Mackie of Indianapolis; a daughter, Erin S. Mackie of Christchurch, New Zealand; a sister, Daisy R. Jones of Pikesville; two brothers, James J. Johnson of Boise, Idaho, and L. Charles Johnson of Phoenix, Ariz.; and four grandchildren. Her 14-year marriage to James B. Mackie ended in divorce.


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